Pope Benedict XIV

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Benedict XIV
Benoit XIV.jpg
Oil painting by Pierre Subleyras
Papacy began 17 August 1740
Papacy ended 3 May 1758
Predecessor Clement XII
Successor Clement XIII
Consecration 16 July 1724
by Pope Benedict XIII
Created Cardinal 9 December 1726
by Pope Benedict XIII
Personal details
Birth name Prospero Lorenzo Lambertini
Born (1675-03-31)31 March 1675
Bologna, Papal States
Died 3 May 1758(1758-05-03) (aged 83)
Rome, Papal States
Previous post
Coat of arms {{{coat_of_arms_alt}}}
Other popes named Benedict
Papal styles of
Pope Benedict XIV
C o a Benedetto XIV.svg
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy Father
Posthumous style None

Pope Benedict XIV (Latin: Benedictus XIV; 31 March 1675 – 3 May 1758), born Prospero Lorenzo Lambertini, was Pope from 17 August 1740 to his death in 1758.[1]

In life, Benedict XIV was loved by the people of the Papal States who praised him. He was modest and witty, had a sense of humour and was dubbed the "Pope of Concordats" during his papacy. He was known to be a patron of the arts and of science. He was well known among the people for walking the streets and talking to the people.

A liberal pontiff, he promoted scientific learning and he also tried to curtail the church's list of forbidden books. In terms of the governance of the Papal States, he reduced taxation and also encouraged agriculture and he also supported free trade. A scholar, he laid the groundwork for the present Vatican Museum.

Early life[edit]

Lambertini was born into a noble family of Bologna to Marcello Lambertini and Lucrezia Bulgarini, the third of five children. At the time of his birth, Bologna was the second largest city in the Papal States. He was created a cardinal in pectore, his name being published in April 1728, and was subsequently made the Cardinal-Priest of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme on 10 May 1728. He also served as the Archbishop of Bologna.

Ascension to the papacy[edit]

After the death of Pope Clement XII, Lambertini attended the papal conclave to choose a successor. It would last for six months. After long deliberation, Lambertini was put forth to the cardinal electors as a compromise candidate, and it is reported that he said to the members of the College of Cardinals "If you wish to elect a saint, choose Gotti; a statesman, Aldrovandi; an honest man, me".[2] (Vincenzo Ludovico Gotti (1664–1742) was professor of philosophy at the College of Saint Thomas, the future Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum,[3] and perhaps the leading Thomist of his time. Aldrovandi was a canon lawyer and Cardinal of the Catholic Church).

This appears to have assisted his cause for winning the election, which also benefited from his reputation for deep learning, gentleness, wisdom, and conciliation in policy. On August 17, 1740, he was elected in the evening and took his new pontifical name of Benedict XIV in honour of Pope Benedict XIII.


Lambertini's papacy as Pope Benedict XIV began in a time of great difficulties, chiefly caused by the disputes between Catholic rulers and the papacy about governmental demands to nominate bishops rather than leaving the appointment to the Church. He managed to overcome most of these problems — the Holy See's disputes with the Kingdom of Naples, Sardinia, Spain, Venice, and Austria were settled.


He had a very active papacy, reforming the education of priests, the calendar of feasts of the Church, and many papal institutions. Perhaps the most important act of Benedict XIV's pontificate was the promulgation of his famous laws about missions in the two bulls, Ex quo singulari and Omnium solicitudinum. In these bulls he ruled on the custom of accommodating non- Christian words and usages to express Christian ideas and practices of the native cultures, which had been extensively done by the Jesuits in their Indian and Chinese missions.

An example of this is the statues of ancestors – there had long been uncertainty whether honour paid to one's ancestors was unacceptable 'ancestor worship,' or if it was something more like the Catholic veneration of the saints. This question was especially pressing in the case of an ancestor known not to have been a Christian. The choice of a Chinese translation for the name of God had also been debated since the early 17th century. Benedict XIV denounced these practices in these two bulls. The consequence of this was that many of these converts left the Church.

Bust of Benedict XIV by Pietro Bracci, Museum of Grenoble

Other activities[edit]

On 22 December 1741, Benedict XIV promulgated the papal bull "Immensa Pastorum principis" against the enslavement of the indigenous peoples of the Americas and other countries.

Tomb of Benedict XIV, St. Peter's Basilica.

On 18 May 1743, Benedict XIV signed a document addressed to the Archbishops and Bishops of the Kingdom of Poland regarding marriage,[4] communicating his dissatisfaction with the dissolution of Christian marriages, even long-stable ones, by the Ecclesiastical Courts of Poland without due cause or in violation of canon law.

Benedict XIV was also responsible, along with Cardinal Passionei, for beginning the catalogue of the Vatican Library. Benedetto, Duke of Chablais, a military commander of the French Revolution and member of the House of Savoy (rulers of the kingdom of Sardinia) was named after him. Infanta Benedita of Portugal was also named after him.

In 1750, Benedict XIV declared a Holy Year.

Death and burial[edit]

Benedict XIV's health worsened in 1758 and after a battle with gout, he died on 3 May 1758 at the age of 83. Following this, he was interred in Saint Peter's Basilica.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pope Benedict X is now considered an antipope. At the time, however, this status was not recognised and so the pontiff the Roman Catholic church officially considers the tenth true Pope Benedict took the official number XI, rather than X. This has advanced the numbering of all subsequent Popes Benedict by one. Popes Benedict XI-XVI are, from an official point of view, the tenth through fifteenth popes by that name.
  2. ^ Michael J. Walsh, Pocket Dictionary of Popes (2006) p. 21
  3. ^ http://www2.fiu.edu/~mirandas/bios1728.htm Accessed 7-2-2011. http://books.google.com/books?id=fGYQAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA41#v=onepage&q&f=false Accessed 7-2-2011
  4. ^ Benedict, XIV; and Hausmann, Bernard A. S. J. . "NIMIAM LICENTIAM: To Bishops of Poland: On Validity of Marriages (1743 May 18)". papaltheology.org Pierian Press. 18 May 1743. Retrieved 2 September 2010. 

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Jacopo Cardinal Boncompagni
Archbishop of Bologna
30 April 1731 – 17 August 1740
Succeeded by
Vincenzo Malvezzi
Preceded by
Clement XII
17 August 1740 – 3 May 1758
Succeeded by
Clement XIII